ANAHEIM -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia opined that Andy Pettitte is pitching "the best we've ever seen him, probably ever" after Saturday's start, and as far as the numbers are concerned, he may be right.
The Elias Sports Bureau did some digging and revealed that Pettitte's numbers through four starts -- a 3-0 record, 1.29 ERA, 22 strikeouts in 28 innings -- are the lowest ERA and also the highest strikeout total that Pettitte has had through his first four games in any of his 16 seasons in the Major Leagues.
"The thing I was surprised about, the first couple of starts, my stamina wasn't there," Pettitte said. "I felt like I was fortunate that I've been able to get off to the start that I've been able to get off to. Now the stamina is there."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said in the spring that several rainouts might wind up helping Pettitte in the long run, giving him a few extra breathers after pitching into November last year, including the World Series clincher on Nov. 4 against the Phillies.
Pettitte felt like his pitches were all where they needed to be when the Yankees headed north, but he did not necessarily feel like extra rest -- even the additional day here and there during the schedule -- would help him.
"I don't want to feel strong, and that's what happened to me in the third inning [Saturday]," Pettitte said. "I got off to a good start and was nice and relaxed and felt like I had everything going.
"I tried to add a little bit to it because I was feeling so strong, and when I do that, it goes south. Later in the game I got a little tired, and for me, I don't throw quite as hard to the catcher and it's usually a good thing."
Still, you could have fooled Scioscia, who wondered if Pettitte had found the Fountain of Youth. Girardi chuckled when asked about his rotation's Ponce De Leon.
"That's something I'm going to ask him, if he found it, because I'm going to look for it too," Girardi said.
Cervelli's bat turns into bonus for Yanks
ANAHEIM -- Francisco Cervelli is well aware that his job description is to continue providing the Yankees with above-average defense, and that anything he can offer offensively is going to be considered a bonus.
So far, the Yankees have been cashing in quite a few of those bonuses. Cervelli had a two-run single in Saturday's victory over the Angels and had six hits in his first 12 at-bats this season, hitting safely in all four of his starts entering Sunday.
"My priority is defense and the pitchers," Cervelli said. "But I work a lot on my offense during the practice, early hitting, and I never have distractions offensively. I think it's the key. [Even] if I can't hit for average and I catch, I can be here for a long time."
Cervelli logged a second start in the Angels' series on Sunday, working with Javier Vazquez as Jorge Posada served in the DH role cleared by Nick Johnson's lower back stiffness. With lefty Scott Kazmir on the mound, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said it was a nice benefit to give Posada a half-day.
"He's caught a lot of games so far and the schedule has been favorable where we've had scheduled days off," Girardi said. "It just keeps him fresh. He's not 25 anymore. I know he works hard and he's in great shape, but you have to remember that."
That decision was made easier because Girardi has no second thoughts about putting Cervelli's name in the lineup.
"He's played extremely well, whether it was this year or last year," Girardi said. "He's played at a very high level for us. It gives us more right-handed batters in the lineup [against Kazmir] and he's swinging the bat great, too."
Cervelli was hitting just .190 in 16 games at Double-A Trenton when injuries hurried him to the big leagues last May. He hit .298 in 42 games for the Yankees and it seems like a safe bet that he has seen his last of the Eastern League, learning how to survive at the big league level.
"I started to get confident," Cervelli said. "I don't know why it was different at Double-A. When I got to the big leagues, everything changed. My mind relaxed and I could make adjustments quickly."
Johnson hopeful he'll play Tuesday
ANAHEIM -- Yankees designated hitter Nick Johnson remained sidelined on Sunday, but said that his lower back stiffness is improving and that he may be ready to play on Tuesday at Baltimore.
"I got some medication that knocked it out pretty good," Johnson said. "I got some sleep and the pain is really gone. It feels a lot better."
Johnson was to spend most of Sunday's game receiving treatment and would not swing the bat. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he would "probably stay away" from Johnson and wants to see him hit off a tee and soft toss on Tuesday before considering him for the lineup.
With Johnson out, Jorge Posada started as the Yankees' DH on Sunday. Alex Rodriguez had started in Johnson's place in Saturday's 7-1 victory over the Angels.
ANAHEIM -- Chan Ho Park threw a scheduled long-toss on Sunday and will leave the Yankees for Tampa, Fla., after the game, where he will continue to rehabilitate his strained right hamstring. ... Manager Joe Girardi said that he believed Ramiro Pena would be his emergency third catcher. Pena periodically straps on shin guards to catch bullpens. ... Brett Gardner is tied with the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen for the Major League lead with nine stolen bases. The last Yankees player to lead the American League in steals was Alfonso Soriano in 2002 (41). ... Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Reggie Jackson were in the Yankees' clubhouse on Sunday.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.